Thursday, 10 October 2013

Colyne’s SCA Diary 2001

February 2001

I knew about the SCA long before I actually attended my first event. In the early 90s I was part of the BBS (Bulletin Board Service) crowd in the Whitby-Oshawa area. One of the regulars was a member of the SCA and tried to get me to come out to a meeting. However, I was living at home at the time in Whitby, the meetings were in Oshawa, and I had no vehicle of my own. (Not that I had my lisence even if I did have a car.) So the years passed. I graduated high school, enrolled at York University, got married and moved to Scarborough. Then one day in February 2001 I decided on a lark to look up the SCA and see if there was a group near us. I was very surprised to find that a group called Ardchreag met at Clairlea Public School, not three blocks from our apartment. I sent the current Seneschal, Eileen LeMesurier, an email and she invited us to come to a meeting.
            I then did much research intot he SCA, reading up as about the Society as much as I could before actually going out so I would know what was going on. In this I found I was different than most new members. When people talked about the different Kingdoms, for instance, I could follow the conversation.
On or near the 14th we went to our first meeting, and arrived just as Eileen and her husband Melchior the Carver were arriving. Introductions were made and we were taken upstairs. The meeting was small, numbering about eight as I recall, but we met many interesting people. One of those was Crispinus Spellar who was to become a good friend over the next year. He had only joined the group the previous October and he and I talked long about fighting and fencing.
At our second meeting we met more people, including Marian of Heatherdale and her husband Piero di Paxiti da Vincenza, who were giving away a lot of excess SCA stuff they had accumulated. Thorfinna and I were lucky enough to grab a few goodies.
After meetings Ardchreag would retire to the Route 66 Pub and Restaurant in the Golden Square mall. (Sometimes I thought the meetings were just an excuse to go to the pub later.) At the pub our ears were filled with much talk of Pennsic War, the largest SCA event in the world. We also talked of personas and names. Thorfinna had already decided she was being Norse, and I had settled on Scottish. As for names, I had originally settled on Colyne of Kilrayne (because I thought it sounded cool) but quickly changed it to Colyne Stewart (which was documentable). Thorfinna spent a great many hours considering and researching befor eshe settled on he rname. For a byname she finally choose gra’feldr which means ‘grey fur coat’ (as she had found a grey fur vest at Value Village that she liked a lot).

March 2001

In early March, less than a month after we joined the SCA, we went to our first event. We wrote an event report for our canton newsletter, The TankaRd, which is copied below.

A Pair of Newbies go to Their First Event
By Colyne and Þorfinna of Ardchreag (MKA Todd and Melanie Fischer, © 2001)

Having only joined the SCA as part of the Ardchreag canton four weeks earlier, we were very excited about going to our first ever event: Eoforwic’s Lady Mayor’s Market Day (March 10, 2001). As amateur filmmakers, we had a few pieces of garb lying around, augmented by fabric bought from the Value Village across the street and transformed into period outfits by Mel, and touched off with items donated by fellow canton members Marian of Heatherdale and Piero di Paxiti.
            So, with Mel dressed as a Norse, and Todd dressed as a 14th century Scot, we set out for the Market at 9:45 (luckily living only a short distance away from the event). We pulled into the parking lot of the Toronto French School just after ten, and made our first important discovery. Unless you feel like standing around for a while, it’s better not to arrive exactly on time. Only a few people had arrived, merchants were still setting up tables, and everyone was a blur of frenzied activity.
            However, that said, as first time event attendees, we took the opportunity to scope out other peoples’ garb, look over the merchants who did have their stock out (Todd managed to grab a decent tankard for a low price) and mingle. We were congratulated on our garb by many people (including the Baroness and Princess, who told Eileen that we were ‘keepers’), and were generally welcomed with open arms.
            The event, though the turnout was lower than expected, ran well, with varied activities throughout the day. The clang of heavy fighting resonated from the stage overlooking the merchant tables, where Ardchreag’s champions fought well (though a House Hrogn fighter took the day). Our own Raffe Scholemaystre asked for the privilege of fighting for Mel’s honour and, with her favour tied about his waist, fought bravely (though, as he admitted, a bit rusty). Still, he managed to score a few wins against the better fighters present. Eanor took time out to show us the ‘serving spaghetti’ move, to get us ready for the day when we too strap on armour.
            The heavy fighting was followed by fencing, while those who wished to engage in less sweaty pursuits went to the Lady Mayor’s solar to play Italian parlour games, or take part in a dance workshop. The flirting contest was in full swing, and Mel gave her ribbon to a dashing Norseman named Garth.
            All the while, wherever you were, you had to avoid the cute little lad in the black and yellow-checkered shirt who would infect you with the plague.
            After playing multiple rounds of piggies with Siegfried, Melchior and Emma, court was called. Here, we made another newbie mistake, and sat at the rear of the room. As such we couldn’t hear half of what was said, especially since some of the children present were playing behind us. Many awards and recognitions were handed out, Raffe had to keep London Lil and her bucket of rats away from the royalty, and Elf’s excellent pair of leather bracers were shown off by the Baroness. The eastern bard, known as ‘Bob’, presented the court with a round of “The Gnome of Ealdormere”, a song that is still going about in our heads three days later.
            After court (which ran for over an hour) dinner was made available at the food counter, and we discovered our third mistake. We had neglected to bring cutlery. Luckily, Ulrich had an extra set, which he loaned us, and those of the canton who had remained thus far sat together to eat with the Baron. We ate and talked while a group of drummers and a lone bassoon accompanied three dancing gentlewomen. We stayed until we were given the subtle hint that it was time to leave (people began packing away the tables) and left for home, exhausted (we had been there for eleven hours) but refreshed as well. We don’t think our first event could have gone better.

It was at this event that I discovered that I was allergic to wool. The brat I wore over my shoulder would drape across my knee when I sat down. I placed my hands on my knees, and the next day both palms were bright red and itched like mad. I managed to catch a cold at this event and was in bed with the flu for the next three days. This was my first SCA cold. (Baroness Gaerwen would later remark that in almost all of my event reports I say that I was sick.)

April 2001

Sometime in April I was home sick one day (see, sick again already) and decided that I was going to put together an SCA webpage. On it I put sub-pages for our different projects, links, fighting and armouring updates and more. I invsioned having a page that could answer almost any questions a newcomer to the SCA might have so I included links to every SCA group in the Knowne World and compiled an Ealdormere Lexicon.
Both Thorfinna and I wanted to get into armoured combat, and we found our first armour making opportunity at Forward into the Past XI in Bryniau Twynnog. We took an armouring class with Sir Edward the Red (the first knight I remember meeting) and made a set of pauldrons (shoulders) each. Later, Canton-mate Brandt das Lederwerker held an all day armouring class at his house where, with plastic barrels donated by Ulrich von der See, we made banded coats of plate. We were both given use of other's old helmets, that needed slight modification and new straps. I was lucky enough to inherit an entire suit of steel plate as a loaner set (from Duchess Eanor of Amberhall). The suit needed a few repairs (mostly popped rivets and broken straps), and it needed foam padding added. However, upon putting on all the pieces, I discovered that the suit didn't quite fit me. The legs were too long, one was bent, and pieces jabbed me in the shins and armpit. So, it was back to square one. 
We had our breast/kidney protection (made with Brandt) and shoulders (made with Ed) but we needed everything else. Not caring if it was pretty or not we ended up converting a lot of sports equipment into our armour. We covered hockey knee/shin guards with leather, and made a Roman-style plastic skirt over a full-length padded gambeson. Thorfianna made her vambraces from bits of lacrosse kidney padding and cup-style elbows out of plastic. I even took soft elbow pads and made plastic bands that bent over it. Berus Jarl, of House Hrogn, said it was effective but “ugly as hell.”
As for shields, I had use of one of Master Theven's heaters, but Thorfinna and I decided to try their hands at making some rounds. I measured one of King Osis' rounds at a Skeldergate fight practice, not taking into account the fact that Osis had been a very large man. The shield measured two-foot-six, but when I laid out the pattern I accidentally enlarged it to two-foot-eight. When he was done, I was told that the round looked like it belonged to a seven-foot-tall Duke. Dubbing it "Colyne's Wagon Wheel" and "The Big Ass Round", it was relegated to the porch, with the thinking that it may one day become a tabletop. Thorfinna's shield was better sized at two-foot-three, but the weight used (3/8") was too heavy. 1/4" or 1/2" would have been better. She is likewise discarded her first shield attempt, and cannibalized it for parts to make a new one out of 11mm popular plywood. The edges Thorfinna's new shield were covered with 3/4" steel strapping (to protect the wood from being hit with weapons) and black hose (to protect the weapons what are doing the hitting). The hose was held in place by artificial sinew (since a lot of it was at hand). It worked, but was sticky and picked up lint.
What with all this construction, our apartment looked like a war zone. Bits of leather, black plastic bits, bent rivets and other detritus covered everything.
We both actually began our training for Armoured Combat (Heavy Fighting) on April 25. Ardchreag's fighters were training at the College of Skeldergate at the time, and House Hrogn and the other fighters there were very welcoming. Everyone was very friendly, and eager to pass on information and training techniques. This training at first consisted of throwing spaghetti and knocking a sword against a pole. Sometimes Berus even let us try to hit him. Berus was our first real teacher and he taught us most of our basics. Many other Skeldergate fighters would take time out to show us tips and tricks, primary amongst them being Streonwald Wulfesbana (who’s kit I had admired at our very first event; it’s very yellow and shiny).

May 2002

Knowing that it would be awhile before we authorized in armoured combat, Thorfinna and I decided to authorize as Level One Scouts, which we did at Roak and Carlotta's Crown Tourney. We figured if we couldn’t fight we could at least scout and be involved in battles that way. Though we tried to get a scout helm class going so we could learn how to make one it was not to be and we never did get our own scouting helms.
            This event, which was hosted by our home canton, saw us both working at Troll and was our first exposure to service in the SCA. We both also sold drink tickets for a time. We had been the first of the event staff to show up in the morning and were amongst the last to leave when the day was finally done (a trend that has continued tot his day).
This month also saw the birth of my Ealdormere playing cards and the infamous “I am SCAnadian t-shirts.” We gave a copy of both to Cynred and Gaerwen (a kind of hello gesture) and she gave us our first tokens (a ring each). I’ve worn this ring on a necklace to almost every even I’ve been to since.

June 2001

When we went to Pikeman’s Pleasure, which was an excellent event (and the first time we stood spear at court), we noticed the absence of our friend and canton-mate Ulrich von der See. His absence was doubly surprising as he was supposed to be talking to Their Excellencies that day about becoming the next Baronial Seneschal. The following Monday we found out why he did not come.
            Thorfinna, Lina Carville and I were sitting at the pub waiting to go to the meeting, when Eirik walked in looking very forlorn. Calmly, he told us that Ulrich was no longer with us. He had passed away on the weekend (from, we learned later, a deadly mixing of medicines). The meeting that night was cancelled.
            The announcement of this sad event was reported thusly in the mundane press:

GRUNWALDT, Markus _ (Employee of Witco Canada Inc., West Hill, avid scuba diver and longtime member of the S.C.A.). Suddenly at his home on Monday, June 4, 2001 at the age of 38. Loving son of Inge and Carlton Cooper-Singer. Beloved brother of Ilona Shepherd and special uncle to Farren. Devoted and loving boyfriend of Roni Furst. He will also be sadly missed by his extended family overseas and his many dear friends. Predeceased by his dear Oma Seemann. Friends may visit at the JERRETT FUNERAL HOME, 660 Kennedy Road, Scarborough (between Eglinton and St. Clair Aves. East), on Friday, June 8, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. A complete service to be held in the chapel on Saturday, June 9 at 2:30 p.m. Cremation to follow. Friends are also welcome to visit on Saturday from 1:30 p.m. until service time. S.C.A. attire would be appreciated. If desired, donations may be made in lieu of flowers to the M.S. Society and/or the Neurofibromatosis Society. -Source: The Toronto Star

            I added a Memoriam section to our SCA webpage and put up pictures of Ulrich (including the infamous pikeachu) and statements from the populace about what a special person he had been. My own thoughts run:

Markus was one of the first people I ever met in the SCA, and was one of the most open and friendly people I've ever knew. He accepted me almost immediately and did everything he could to help me get my feet planted. Creative and imaginative, Markus was a vintner, a pewter caster, a diver, a collector of medieval films (the good and the horribly bad), an archer, a musician...he was many things. I wish I could have had more time to spend with him. His passing diminishes us all.
            The last time I saw Marcus was Monday, May 28, at a Canton of Ardchreag dance meeting. In fact he, Thorfinna and I did a dance together (the name of which escapes me). The dance has a double-time cadence, and Thorfinna and I (especially me) couldn't quite get it down. Marcus on the other hand sort of glided about the dance floor, his knees popping high, a large grin on his face. This is how I'll remember him. (That, and the 'Got Mead?' sticker on his truck.)

As well, many of the Bards who knew him wrote songs and stories to honour his memory. Below is a copy of what I came up with:

Wolfen Elegy
In Memory of Ulrich von der See (mka Markus Grunwaldt)
Colyne Stewart June A.S. XXXVI

Can you hear, with pointed ear
The howl that’s on the wind?
The wolfen cry to let us know
Erlkonig here has been.

Stunned we sit, ‘round fire’s pit
With words that will not come.
No voice can fill our sense of loss
Our tongues and pens struck dumb.

One we knew, for days too few
Abruptly taken from us.
Life gave no sign of things to come
No warning; must it be thus?

As he’s lain, search not in vain
No reason can we find.
Embraced by Horned King’s bony arms
He left us all behind.

To understand, together band
For comfort all will need
To forge ahead through grief and pain
Our strength will be our steed.

He was a friend 'til very end
A smile he shared so free;
Let all the Wolves remember him
In hearts and memory.

The rain pours, as the wolf roars
And shares in all our tears;
For we have lost a kindred soul
True child of Ealdormere.

This poem was well received by all, and I hope he would have liked it.
            At the funeral we wore garb, as his mother had specifically asked us to. Many SCAdians were in attendance and it just showed how many lives Ulrich had touched. I hope he knew that. Many remarked on how natural he looked lying in his coffin but I could not help feeling it was a wax dummy lying there, and not him. Ulrich had been so full of life, how could this be him? At the end of the service Marian of Heatherdale’s song “Call the Names” was played and I finally let loose the tears I had been fighting all day. Afterwards we all went to Route 66 and toasted his memory.
Life goes on. We continued working on our armour and on June 20, we finally ‘finished’ our armour (armour making is never finished, it is a continuous on-going event, as we soon learned). That night we waded into melee battles at Skeldergate’s fight practice. We both did well (for newbies) but it was clear that much practice was still needed. I was told that my offensive instincts were good, but that my defense was next to non-existent
We also found out that our skirts weren’t practical. While they absorbed almost all impact from a blow, they were bulky, making it hard to move around, hard to drop when killed, and hard to stand up again. So, the shirts were dumped, as were the gambesons, replaced with just a sweater. (The gambeson was just too damn hot!) The skirt was replaced by bands of padded plastic hung from the belt and strapped about the thigh. Ass pads were also hung in the back to protect against rump raps. 
This worked well for me, although I found I was going to have to add a piece on my shield-side thigh, as there was a big hole there (got bruised twice). It did not work well for Thorfinna. She found that the thigh bands interfered with her knee, and she spent too much time on the field worrying about them. She took them off, and replaced them with a large hanging piece, contoured to the shape of her thigh (she cut the piece, then put it in the oven at 200 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes to make it malleable). This worked much better for her.

July 2001

Over the Canada Day Weekend our canton hosted its second event of that year. I think it was summed up nicely in the following event report:

Event Report: Ealdormere War Practice 3
By: Colyne Stewart

Every event that Thorfinna and I have been to has been better than the last, and EWP has to date been the best of them all.
Eirik Andersen did a masterful job of organizing the event and assembling a crack team to assist him (consisting primarily of Lachlan MacLean on Troll, Fursto as Chiurgeon, Melchior as head grunt, Eanor of Amberhall as the Parking Enforcer, Crispinus Spellar as Deputy Sheriff, and other Creaggers who were always willing to lend a hand whenever it was needed).
As some of you may have heard, a certain member of our Canton was induced to put on a dress and cavort about the Ardchreag campfire, going so far as to give yours truly a lap dance. This brazen hussy even offered such a dance to Theign Cynred when he
came to visit. I will neglect to mention this individual's name, though that likely won't save him from notoriety. As he said, when he was walking back from the Rusty Tankard the next morning, he heard a passerby point him out to his companion, saying, "I hear that guy looks great in a dress." This is untrue, though. He did not.
Our very own Marian of Heatherdale was put on vigil at a spontaneous court, as they had to grab her during the hour she spent at the event. She is being (now has been) Laurelled for her research into Arthurian Legend. This I unfortunately missed by a few
minutes, though Crispinus was on hand and got some photographs. Helen of Greyfells was also put on vigil.
Baroness Gaerwen became Authorized as a level 2 scout, dodging about the fighters and gleaning Cynred's arrows as he dropped fighter after fighter.
Though we all had a good time, the weather seemed to conspire against us. On Friday we baked, on Saturday we were drenched, and on Sunday we were buffeted by
freezing wind. (Monday, of course, was perfect weather, just in time for Tear Down). In fact, the wind on Sunday was so strong it blew our sunshade free. Not from its pegs, which were still securely driven into the ground, but right out of its feet and
flipped upside down.
The rain on Saturday did not stop the House Galbraith Birthday Bash, which went off almost without a hitch. Mead flowed as free as the rain, the Templars were tossed and a good time was had by all. The children's piñata (in the shape of a knight) was
broken the next day. The piñata’s creator danced him about, refusing to accept blows ("That was only a glance!"), until Brandt's son Lance stepped up and cracked him soundly across the neck (he was not wearing a gorget) and severed said neck, sending a
spray of candy flying thorough the air and leaving a head dangling from a string, dripping bits of wrapper.
On Sunday night, Master Hector stopped by the Ardchreag encampment and read to us the history of the Royal Line, all the way back to the very first King of the West, passing around a bottle of Scotch Whiskey for the listeners to enjoy. A Bardic circle began to form up around him, growing to the point where the circle had to move out onto the open field. The circle went late into the night as stories were told and songs were sung.
Kingdom and Baronial Moots were held on Sunday, within view of archers cursing the wind, and fighters thankful for it (though Brandt was almost lifted into the air as the wind caught his war door).
Also on Sunday, a memorial service was held for Ulrich von der See, of beloved memory. The service was held where the List Field met the archery range, resided over by the Baron and Baroness, who were in full regalia. The members of Ardchreag and Greenhithe lined up to either side, with the Baron at one end, and Master Hector at the other. Everyone spoke of their fond memories of Markus, of his projects, his songs, his humour, his self sacrifice, and Hector quoted from one of Marian of Heatherdale's songs.
Fursto had a vial of Markus' ashes,which she then spread over the field. Charles, the new Seneschal of Eoforwic, whispered, "I knew there was a reason for the wind." Cynred and Hector began to clash their weapons together as several people called out
Ulrich's name. It was a very moving ceremony.
These are only a few of the things that I witnessed, though I heard of many more, such as a trading circle and Red Herring initiations.
This is an event like no other, where the autocrats blend into the background, basically winding up the toy and letting everyone else play with it. Eirik deserves much praise (and many Cokes) for his efforts in organizing this event. Wassail Eirik!

Due to that first night of debauchery, House Tallywhacker was birthed, and I was made the Bailiff, and given possession of Cock-knocker, a phallic-shaped back rubbing device. This House would later claim Royal Peers as members, and would cause much raising of and crossing of eyebrows of others.
Something else that happened at War Practice was my assumption of the duties of Canton Chronicler. For a year I would produce The TankArd until a higher calling would lure me away. I had much fun with this newsletter and increased its publication schedule, its size and its readership. (Of course, this was done through the help of all my submittors who gave me endless event reports, stories, songs, reviews and other paginalia.) One of my big projects, which was mostly completed by Eirik, who was Canton Web Minister, was to convert all existing TankArds into pdf documents and put them on the canton webpage and archive them on disc. In this way our history would not be lost. I had quickly realized that SCAdians were continually asking questions like, “Who was the third Bard of Ealdormere?” or “Who was Baronial Champion of Ben Dunifrth during the reign of so and so?” I did not want Ardchreag’s history to be likewise lost. Around this time I was given the canton’s histories, previously written by Raffe Scholemaystre, but whioch had not been updated for a period of two and a half years. Going through old records I tried to document as much of this lost time as possible, as well as start to record what had happened since I had come to the Cliffs.
Later that month, in a fit of foolishness, I unleashed House Fhtagn upon the world. See our works ye mighty and despair.
Thorfinna's new shield was completed and saw action twice the week of July 8 and 11. It was small, fast and light. I decided that I would be using the same wood to make a new heater at some point in the future. 
            I made the following entry in my fighting journal for July 15, 2001: “Colyne and Thorfinna have now been in armour four times, and have been told that they are fighting like people who have been active for two months. This is due largely in part to the instruction given them by numerous other fighters, including but not limited to: Berus, Eanor, Brandt, Stroenwald, Vlad, and Cole. This past week, Colyne got his first melee kill, a battle archer. (So it's not quite a real kill; she submitted.) Cole found a hole in Colyne's armour, so its back to the workshop. (It left a big ol' bruise.)”
            Both Thorfinna and I joined the Ealdormere Bardic College this month.

August 2001

Ah, Pennsic. Yes, we went to Pennsic our very first year, only six months after joining the Society. I was glad I did as I found a member of that ill-fated House Fhtagn from whom I bought a bits bag, full of various bits of armour, plus two used helms. Finally I could  pass on the diving bell I’d been using for a slightly smaller helm (3" shorter). The helm, incidentally, was in my colours (gules and argent). We also bought two new basket hilts from Kingslayer Armoury. They were very cool, though a tad small. Still, price was good and they had a lifetime warrenty.
            Both of us braved Herald’s Point to submit our names and devices, though it would take a year before we heard back from them. My name and device passed, but Thorfinna’s device did not, and her name was pending.
Neither of us fought that war, but I did scout, taking part in the infamous Woods Battle at Pennsic XXX on August 15. It was fun, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Basically I just ran back and forth from the front line to the resurrection point, calling for reinforcements. The only really cool part was when I was sneaking through some brush and spotted a group of fighters on their knees. I crept closer and saw that they were holding one of the three banners (the objective of the battle was to own two of the three banners at the end). I was getting pretty excited about now. So I crept even closer to try and spy what side they were on, and was disappointed to discover that they were on the same side. It would have been a much better story if I had found an enemy group. Ah well.
A fuller description of our first Pennsic appeared in The Tankard:

The Pennsic War: A First-timer’s Perspective
By Colyne Stewart

When we first joined the SCA back in February, a lot of people told us about this big camping event in Pennsylvania. We thought it sounded interesting, but it was e something for next year. As time went by, and we heard more and more, we said, “Hm. Maybe going this year wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.”
            So we loaded down our tiny Saturn and left Toronto on Saturday (Aug. 11) at 4:40 in the morning. We were quickly waved across the border by a sleepy Yankee, and quickly sailed down the Interstate, arriving at Cooper’s Lake Campground around 10 am.
            I still remember the sense of awe as we were driving along the highway, and all of a sudden the trees to our right opened up to reveal a sea of pavilions and tents. “This must be it!” we exclaimed. We found our way to Troll and were processed within ten minutes. (We had pre-regged.)
            Using the map that came in our Pennsic booklet, we meandered our way through throngs of garb-clad SCAdians, slowly crawling down Runestone Hill, and entering the Swamp/Bog area. All the little side streets weren’t on the map, so we took a slightly circuitous route, until we saw Streonwald (of Caer Draeth) through the trees, and Raffe across the road from him.
            We had come with grand plans, with lists of battles of to watch and classes to take. But there was just too much to do! Too many merchants, too many entertainers, too many friends to see and make. We did make sure we watched the Castle Battle (which was quite impressive), the Dwarves vs. Giants Tourney (the Dwarves were so-so one on one, but once they let them swarm…!), the Field Battles and the Bridge Battles. I can’t tell you how impressive it was to see those two armies line up, our fighters from Ealdormere singing, others clanging weapons on shields. Then to see them rush at each other…it was like being inside of Braveheart or one of the old Sand and Sandal Epics. It was especially impressive when they fought with combat archery and siege equipment. (Though the platoon of Drachenwalders wiped out by archers didn’t care much for it).
            In the battles, Ealdormere in general, and Septentria in particular were front and center. We brought with us many allies (such as House Mjolnar, House Ironlance, and the Swampie Archers), and with them we showed the Middle Allies how to fight a war. Whenever the Middle won a War Point, or came very close to doing so, it was usually through the efforts of Ealdormere. Wassail!
            Ardchreag supplied at least five fighters to the war effort (Brandt, Vlad, Eanor, Ziggy and Raffe) and at least two scouts (Fursto and yours truly). (Sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone.) That’s right, I scouted at War this year, in the Woods Battle. I was supposed to work with Baron Brand of Ben Dunfirth, but once the action started we quickly got separated. We had a plethora of scouts on our side, especially down the one tree line, so I ended up scouting for a Middle Kingdom Lord, watching our western line, and watching for infiltrators.
            After the battle I walked down the hill, all the way to the Ardchreag encampment (which are about as far apart as possible), stopping on the way to get one of Pennsic’s true treasures. One of the food venders sold lemon shakes, which was basically just a piece of lemon and some sugar in ice water, but man was it good! The Americans present just went on and on about the chocolate milk, but we Canucks couldn’t get enough of those shakes! We even started making our own in the Ardchreag camp.
            Most nights, we didn’t get to bed until three. One night we were up until five am, sitting in a coffee hut, listening to a bard from Drachenwald called Fremen the Minstrel. Other nights we sat out on the dark List Fields and watched the meteor showers, or watched the shadow puppet shoes, or stopped by the Fettered Cock to talk pewter casting.
            The one thing we learned for next year is to only bring a few perishable goods. Ice melts fast in PA! You’re better to make a couple runs into town. We had to throw away a good deal of meat. Also, bring good supportive footwear. We had been warned in advance, so were prepared, but others weren’t. We heard a story of a fellow Ealdormerean who wore moccasins one year and had his heel split open. (If you ever go, you will be walking a lot!)
            There’s more I could go on about, but I’m running out of space. I’ll leave you with the words I began most conversations with after getting home, “You’ve gotta go to Pennsic!”

September 2001

We thought that after camping for ten days at Pennsic we wouldn’t want to spend another four days sleeping on the ground but we packed our wagon and headed up to Bonfield for the long weekend. We had a marvelous time though it was very cold at night. So cold the first night that we were dressed in all our garb and covered with blankets but still frozen.
            Crispinus and I had long talks at Bonfield about Games and the performing arts and upon returning home we started two new groups. I founded the Games Guild of Ealdormere, while Crispinus, Thorfinna and I started the septentrian Performing Arts Troupe. The Guild received the blessings of Their Majesties Aaron and Rustique, and SPAT (as it was called) was given the nod by Cynred and Gaerwen, Their Excellencies Septentria.
I found that after Pennsic my knees were sore so I finally went to the doctor at the end of the month. I was diagnosed with catcher's knee. I was finding it difficult to run, and my speed was cut in half as it caused me pain. This pretty much squashed my scouting all together.

October 2001

On October 12 at TRM Aaron and Rustique's Crown Tourney held by the Canton of Skeldergate, the Games Guild taught a tafl class, concentrating on tablut. I taught the class with Thorfinna’s help and one of those in attendance, brian Goodheart of Caer Draeth, become one of the Guild’s first recruits.
            In honour of Halloween, I wrote the following article for The TankArd:

Samhain, Feast of the Dead
Being a Brief History of Hallowe’en
Colyne Stewart
Appeared in The TankArd #35 (October 2001)

The holiday we now celebrate as Hallowe’en has a long history, stretching back to the time of the Ancient Celts. For them, the evening of October 31, and morning of November 1, was the beginning of their new year. They called it Samhain (or Samhuinn, pronounced sow-en) and it was (primarily) a celebration of the dead. (In Ireland, it was Oiche Shamhna.) As the new year began with winter, a season of death, it was only natural that the Celts would honour (and ward off) those that had already passed on.
            It was after Samhain that the faerie folk would depart the land, not to return until Beltane. Before leaving, the little people would cause no end of trouble, and it was considered unwise to walk alone at night, lest they take you away. Folks who had to travel would carry iron or steel to ward them off, and treats were left out for the faeries to eat.
It was also a time of divination, when futures would be forecast. Lovers would place two nuts in a fire to see if their relationship would last. If the nuts burned, it showed that they had a strong relationship; if they popped, trouble may lay ahead.
As the end of the year, many took the opportunity to take care of more earthly needs, such as hiring servants, closing accounts, paying debts and making new contracts. Many stock animals would be slaughtered, as it was difficult to keep many of them during the lean winters, and this act eventually took on ritualistic meaning. In fact, in Germany and Gaul, men would put on the slain animals’ skins as they thought this would gain them contact with the animal spirits and their deities. The animals that were kept were run through samhnagan (bonfires) as a means of purification (the smoke and heat did actually kill many parasites living in the cattle’s fur). Many people would run through the flames as well.
Originally, some people didn’t just run through the fire, they were consumed by it. Blood sacrifice was considered a fitting payment to the earth that had sustained them during the previous year. It was a contract between them and the earth. The sacrificial victims were chosen in different ways. In some places, it was the person who cut the last stalk during the harvest. In others, lots were drawn. In Wales, everyone would race down a hill yelling, “The black sow take the hindermost!”  The person who lost the race was then ritually sacrificed to the Black Sow, a spirit of death, evil and cold.
Unknown to many is that Samhain was also a time of peace, when no fighting or divorce was allowed. In fact, many people got married at this time. Also, many tricks were played as it was thought that nature’s natural order was reversed. People would lead away other’s cattle, block up chimneys and through things at notable figures. (Of course, this was all likely blamed on faeries and ghosts.)
Apples and nuts played an important part in the festival. Apples were the Celtic Silver Bough, and represented the underworld, love, fertility, wisdom, and divination. It was the fruit of heaven and wise men. Hazel nuts grew from the sacred tree of the Celtic grove, and symbolized life and (like all nuts) wisdom, lovers and peace.
(a side note: many people think that the celebration of Samhain was named after Samhain, the Celtic god of the dead. This is not true. There was/is no such god.)
When the Romans invaded Celtic territories they adopted many of these practices, though they stopped the human sacrifice and replaced it with the burning of effigies. Samhain would have been celebrated right after the Roman holiday October Horse (October 15). On this day, weapons and produce were put into storage, and a two-man chariot race was held in the Campus Martinus. The near horse of the winning chariot was sacrificed to Mars, killed with a spear, and had its head and tail decorated with cakes and prominently displayed. The horse to many was a harvest/corn spirit, and this horse worship lead to the inclusion of the hobby horse and wicker horse in autumn celebrations.
Christianity likewise adopted Samhain, changing its name to All Saints and All Souls (November 1 and 2). October 31 was All Hallows Eve, which was eventually shortened to Hallowe’en or just Halloween. To them, the samhnagan were called pile fires, which were lit to guide the dead to heaven. Children, called soulers, would travel from house to house, singing songs and being given soul cakes. Later, parshell crosses began appearing on the doors of byres, houses and stables instead of kern babies. (A kern baby was a doll made of a sheaf from the last stalk of the harvest, which warded off evil powers.) Soulers later became guisers, who wore costumes (perhaps a throw-back to the men in animal skins) who were given nuts, apples and money. Many guisers carried a hobby horse.
Over time the holiday became more secular, and guisers were given any type of sweets. Apples though still play an important part of Hallowe’en, in the form of apple bobbing and cider. Many people still decorate their homes with stalks of corn and the pranks of the Celts have returned (often in the form of a threat, “Trick or treat!”).
This holiday has survived periodic attempts to stamp it out, under claims that it is ‘pagan’ and ‘satanic’. People who make such claims fail to realize that ‘pagan’ does not necessarily equal evil, nor that ‘Satanists’ have nothing to do with Halloween. Hallowe’en is a harmless holiday with only as much ‘evil’ portent as that which you give it. Hallowe’en has survived for thousands of years, and will likely be with us for thousands more.

Wilson, Jerry. The History and Customs of Halloween, 2000.

Cooper, J. C. The Dictionary of Festivals, Thorsons, San Francisco, 1995. 4-5, 44, 108-109, 160, 189-191.

November 2001

The Games Guild of Ealdormere’s charter was signed at Scotchtoberfest, in the Canton of der Welfengeu. The Guild also held its first tourney, the game in question being tablut. The winner was a good gentle named Andri Magnusson who won a board I had drawn on leather with wooden playing pieces I had cut from a length of spool. I met Ragnar kennarri at this event, a member of the Order of the Laurel who was renowned for his knowledge of tafl and all its variants.
            We had an adventure on the way home from der Welfengeu, which I romanticized thusly:

The Story of how the Ardchreag Standard was Lost, and of how it was Found Again
Colyne Stewart, November A.S. XXXVI

Not so long ago a great celebration was held in the Canton of der Welfengeu. People from all corners of the Kingdom of Ealdormere, and some from beyond, travelled tot he Land of the Ram to attend. Many folk from the Canton of Ardchreag attended, partaking in various activities and having a jolly time. When it became time to serve feast, the Chreaggers departed, for there were no free seats in the Hall.
            As it was the birthday of one of their number, the pilgrims decided to stop at the Inn of the Jackass to celebrate. They loaded their wagons and set off down the highways towards Kytchener, where said inn was located.
            Upon arriving, the members of the lead wagon were informed by the others that something had fallen from their load. The others, afraid of becoming seperated if they stopped to investigate, had left the object lying on the road.
            Searching their wagon, the Chreaggers found that their standard, and a metal joint from its pole, was missing.
            Not wanting the lost standard to stop the birthday celebrations, Stephen Scrymgeour and Thorfinna gra’feldr volunteered to go back in search. The others went into the inn and ordered food and drink, Colyne Stewart nervously pulling at his beard.
            The road was dark and deserted as the Scot and Norse woman made their way back towards the Hall. They spent the time in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. When they got close to their destination they stepped down from their wagon, swinging torches left and right, one searching each side of the road.
            The ground was muddy, and a mist was rising, making their search difficult. To make matters worse, they could hear howling in the trees nearby.
            Going still, Stephen called out to Thorfinna, and she ran to his side. Sitting ten feet away at the edge of the woods, the standard in its jaws, was a tygre. It growled at them, then turned intot he woods and ran. Not hesitating a second, the two Chreaggers charged after it, Stephen freeing his dirk, Thorfinna clutching her axe.
            Brambles and thorns ripped at their legs, and Stephen was thankful he had not worn a kilt that day. After a long chase, they treed the tygre, who growled from its perch, shaking the tree as if daring them to climb up after it. Putting his dirk between his teeth, Stephen, who was wise in the ways of lumbermen, began to do just that.
            When he got close to the creature he could hear howling from below the tree, but he did not dare take his eyes from the tygre to see what was transpiring. He slowly advanced on the tygre, careful of where he placed his feet, taking the blade from his mouth. The tygre sat still, not moving, not seeming even to breath, until suddenly it lunged.
            Stephen whipped up the dirk as the beast crashed into him. They both tumbled fromt he tree, crashing through the branches, and Stephen managed to turn himself so when they hit the ground, he landed on top of the great cat. His breath was knocked from his lungs, and he gasped painfully as he laboured to breath. Hands grabbed him and hauled him to his feet and he discovered that the tygre had been slain. Looking about he saw the carcasses of many garwolves. When he looked questioningly at Thorfinna, the Norse just smiled.
            Bending down, Stephen freed the standard from the tygre’s jaws. Other than a fray of two, the standrard was fine, though the force of the tygre’s jaws had bent the metal joint.
            Returning triumphantly to the inn, they proudly displayed the standard to their fellows who were all greatly relieved (especially Colyne). The celebrations that followed went long into the night.

(This story, like so many tales, is based in fact. It is true that after Scotchtoberfest on Nov. 3, 2001, many members of the populace of Ardchreag stopped at Kitchener to celebrate a birthday at Jack Astor’s. Upon arriving they did indeed discover that the canton’s standard had been left on top of tone of the vehicles and had fallen off somewhere long the way. Food having already been ordered, Stephen and Thorfinna went back alone to look for it, and did indeed recover it. It had been run over by a car, but the metal joint that it had been packed with had saved it, taking the brunt of the punishment upon itself.)

By November 25, both our Mark II suits of armour were working well, though Thorfinna was still working on making her own pair of leather half gauntlets and I still needed a new gorget, and both of us were still unhappy with our legs. That was ok though as fighting had unfortunately fallen on the back burner since Pennsic as both Thorfinna and I had been through two bouts of illness each, and our apartment was in a state of re-configuring flux (eating up mush of our free time). An informal fight practice was planned to begin at Ardchreag's new keep shortly, and we both planned to get back into things then. In the meantime, we studied fighting manuals.

December 2001

On December 1 at Day in Scotland, held by the brand spankin' new Canton of Belleford Keep, there was no official Games Guild activities planned, but many games of chess and tafl were played. I made the aquantance of a young lad named Ruik who I would see many times later, always with a game board or a musical instrument in his hand. At this event the Baron of Ben Dunfirth foolishly allowed members of Ardchreag (who shall go unnamed) to hang the Baronial banner. During court this banner slipped from its post and beaned the Queen. Assassins were blamed and we all sat very low in our seats.
On December 15, at Wassail, held by the Canton of Bryniau Tywynnog, the Guild held both a beginner's tafl (hnefetafl) and tabula (backgammon). Emma Shaw walked away victorious from the tafl tourney, while Master Rufus took the tabula. Emma won a tafl board, and Master Rufus won a mancala board. Other than the tournies, many games were played, and game boards were entered in the A&S competition. Most impressive was Earl Syr David’s war chest with the large chessboard on its lid.

Here We Sit A Carolin’
Event Report: Wassail
Colyne Stewart

When Thorfinna, Eirik and I set out for Bryniau Tywynogg on Saturday morning I was concerned. I had not been sleeping well of late, and had been to a party the night before where Brandt had plied me with demon spirits. My concern was, namely, that I would sleep through the entire event. Normally, I nod off on wagon rides and was surprised when we arrived at the hall and I was still awake.
            The change rooms turned out to be a single room, with partitions set up along the length of it. As we Lords changed on one side, we could hear the Ladies on the other say that there was a gap between two of the partitions. Looking over I saw who appeared to be THL Aelfwyn of Longwood peeking through the gap and waving.
            We entered the main hall to find that Normand and new canton-mate Emma Shaw had created an Ardchreag presence near the Thrones, between the Baron and Baroness of Skraeling Althing and visiting dignitaries from the Middle Kingdom. Normand had his table spread, well stocked with candies made by Emma. We sat and talked and waited for the innkeeper’s stock of liquid refreshments to arrive. Normand sampled Icelandic chicken for lunch, which he liked so well he went back for seconds.
            Fellow Chreaggers Eanor, Gunter and Kenric took part in the tourney, and Marian of Heatherdale arrived to display her wares, sporting a stylish new ‘do.
            Colyne, in his capacity as a member of the Games Guild, was to run three tournaments along with local Ragnarr Kennari: beginner’s tafl, advanced tafl, and tabula (backgammon). Unfortunately, there were not enough advanced tafl players in evidence (at least none that wanted to show off their skill). However, the beginner’s tourney ran smoothly (once Colyne gave up on waiting for the promised tables and Normand let him set up the boards on his). Emma squared off against Eirik in the first round, then moved into the finals against a fellow named Thorfinn. She likewise defeated this noble lord to win her own tafl game. In tabula, Master Rufus walked away victorious, with a mancala board as prize. (Ragnarr donated both prizes.)
            While Colyne ran about the hall (for the tabula was being played across the room from the tafl), Thorfinna sat and talked pewter casting with the Baroness of Skraeling Althing, her Excellency Dame Eleanor.
            When the tourney was completed, and the fencers began to suit up, the Baron and Baroness of Ramshaven called an impromptu court, and summoned their cousins the Baron and Baroness of Septentria to appear before them. It turns out that the B&B of Ramshaven have been in negotiations with Cynred to secure him between two to three new wives! (In exchange for, I believe, a sheep and a sword.) Needless to say, Gaerwen was shocked, and to chastise her Baron, she publicly encouraged all the bards to sing decidedly unglamorous songs of Cynred.
            Later, a carol circle sprang up around our beloved Baron and Baroness, led by Master Hector. When a herald came out and said that Her Royal Highness, Joleicia of Lichefield was feeling lonely (she had been put on vigil for a Laurel that day), it was decided that the Barony of Septentria would entertain her. Leaping to our feet, we Processed to the vigil room, Hector leading and announcing us (“Make way for the Barony of Septentria!”). Cramming into the tiny room, and sending other Nobles fleeing, we closed the door to hinder Her Highness’ own escape, and proceeded to serenade her as only Septentrians can. That is to say, Hector sang while we all bobbed our heads and slapped our thighs, only raising our own voices during the choruses, for that’s all we know. Poor Joleiica did not know what to do, and sat patiently until, springing to our feet again, the Barony Processed back into the Hall proper. The entire incident left many other folks bewildered.
            When it came time to feast, we had to depart, though with much grief. For the smells coming from the kitchen were sumptuous, and there were still seats available. But alas, we had prior commitments for that night. Still, it was with a merry heart that our wagon lumbered on its way under the stars as we departed from a truly wonderful event.

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